AMN Reviews: Cruel Diagonals – Disambiguation (2018; Drawing Room)

Cruel Diagonals is San Francisco area vocalist and musician Megan Mitchell. In general, the term disambiguation refers to focusing in on fewer or just one meaning of a word or term. The album Disambiguation, however, is notable for its expansive approach, combining ambient, neo-folk, drone, found-object stylings, and modern composition.

Mitchell’s vocals are haunting and often wordless. The mood she provides is more important than any lyrical message. Backing this are electronics, unconventional percussion, and waves of sound. As an example, Soporific Return begins with a mid-range, eerie drone accompanied by bell-like percussion. Mitchell subtly chants in the background and well as vocalizing in the foreground. The mood changes slightly past the halfway mark, as Mitchell’s voice dominates for the rest of the track, while the drone changes texture and slips further away.

Overall, Disambiguation creates a dystopian soundscape in which dark melancholy strains combine with more hopeful evocations. This is a place were musical structure, color, and mood are more important than melody or harmony. If comparisons are your thing, think Dead Can Dance mashed up with Coil and Pauline Oliveros and you would not be too far from the mark, though Disambiguation goes far beyond the sum of those parts. A unique and compelling release.

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